sssdThe newspaper  in Florida covering the town where Mohamed Atta’s cadre of terrorist hijackers cavorted unmolested before the 9.11 attack made an effort recently to hitch a ride aboard the cluetrain and investigate something about the story which played out before them almost unnoticed.

But if you weren’t aware of the Sarasota Herald Tribune’s singularly lackluster coverage of the biggest story of the nascent 21st century, much of which transpired in their own backyard, the target of their investigative scrutiny might seem a little odd…

In a snarky mistake-filled (they even got the correction wrong) hit piece long on nothing but attitude, (read it here) they decided to (sigh) investigate me.

Imagine my surprise.

While we seldom bother (unlike some) to regale you with the colorful anecdotes about the difficulties suffered by those in this line of work ("Mike needs our help!") such attacks are never completely unexpected.

You stick your neck out and you know what happens. Tell the truth, and it starts a feeding frenzy. No big deal…

Welcome to the NFL.

But what we did find surprising in an article in a newspaper owned by the prestigious New York Times were the apparently freely made-up quotes. We thought they’d decided, after Jayson Blair, that that was a journalistic no-no.

We may have been misinformed.

Snark hunts replace snipe hunts. Film at 11

The July 11, 2005 story by Herald Tribune reporter Lauren Glenn, headlined “Venice author questions 9/11 findings in controversial book,” began this way:

“Don't question him too hard. In fact, try to eliminate any tones of doubt from your voice. He doesn't have to explain himself if he doesn't want to.

"Daniel Hopsicker is sitting in a coffee shop in Venice, talking to a reporter and drinking a latte because that is exactly what he wants to be doing.”

“'I'm not here to give you my resume, honey," said Hopsicker, his voice loud enough that other people in the Bella Luna Coffee Shop on Miami Avenue turn and stare for a moment.”

Question: What kind of churlish boor calls a female reporter “honey?”

Answer: Anyone the Sarasota Herald Tribune doesn’t like. "Reporting" doesn't get any more cheesy–or dishonest–than this.
kFacing down the rebellion in DisneyTimeWarnerLand

The dislike itself is understandable (traditional media jealously guarding their monopoly on what becomes "news".) But if we'd called a female reporter "honey" you can bet that we would also be describing her article's attitude as "bitchy."

But we're not like that. So we used "snarky" instead.

We suspect someone at the Sarasota Herald Tribune feels a trifle touchy, as well they should, about the paper's unexceptional coverage of the biggest September 11th crime scene that wasn’t reduced to rubble…even though they were right-there-on-the-ground.

This has, in turn, distracted editors normally preoccupied with more mundane concerns, like suppressing details from surfacing (or surfacing prematurely?) of local Congresswoman Katherine Harris’ sybaritic and lipstick-smeared local past.

“She was the local ‘pump,’” one Sarasota physician-cum-socialite told us unbidden (if indelicately) before launching into salacious anecdotes which are apparently common knowledge in certain circles, featuring conduct unbecoming representatives claiming to uphold traditional family values.

This also may explain the Bush family's current antipathy for her. They're in a position to know, to put it delicately. (But even a casual observer would say that the "lipstick-smeared" part comes as no surprise.)

7sz624y5"A gunk-filled drain, sure… But we got our own Sudanese terrorists."

Even in a cesspool of corruption, like Florida, Sarasota represents the gunk-filled bottom of the drain. The paper’s editors may just feel unappreciated for their Promethean effort to keep the lid on…

They're like Customs officials forced to stand around in the hot sun at U.S.-Mexico border crossings all day while doing their best to look the other way.

Its deceptively hard work. Few can appreciate how quickly one runs out of other ways to look…

The story continues:

“The reporter had asked Hopsicker, a 53-year-old local conspiracy theorist and self-published author, why people should believe the things he writes.”

“Why should they believe him when he writes that Mohamed Atta, the terrorist who flew the first plane into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and one of three hijackers who lived in Venice, was a cocaine-bingeing sex fiend?”

“Why should they believe that the whole ordeal — everything from the flight school where the hijackers trained until the day they crashed commercial airliners into the Twin Towers and Pentagon — was a CIA conspiracy?”

‘Why should anybody believe anything you write?’ Hopsicker retorts.”

  This is complete Tosh (but not Bother.) And the truth is altogether more entertaining.

gbhijack1"How 'bout them Devil Rays anyway?"

When a local newspaper profiles a local author, typical questions might include: “How did you find our fair city?”

And replies often lean on a colorful anecdote, a laying on of the local component. For example:

“Them grits down at Mom’s diner sure hit the spot.”

But Herald Tribune reporter Lauren Glenn clearly feels she is made of much sterner stuff. At least so she would have had us believe… She asked each and every one of her questions in an accusatory tone that even Court TV’s Nancy Grace reserves for Michael Jackson’s attorneys, or Joran Van Der Sloot family spokesmen.

Her very first question was: “How much money do you make?”

After the shock had worn off enough to once again permit speech, we told her bluntly, “That’s none of your business."

Her response was so instructive that we've been waiting to tell you about it.

“You might as well tell me,” she sneered. “We can find out you know.”  

Well now. You'll have to trust us about the sneer.

!!!wwwqBut the quote’s word for word. Its not the sort of question you forget…

“We can find out you know.”

Although we had conducted literally hundreds of interviews for “Welcome to TerrorLand” with credible eyewitnesses across Florida, many with shocking revelations, the Herald Tribune was completely uninterested.

Once again, you can imagine our surprise.  

Bizarrely, Glenn’s sole line of questioning concerned our income… So much so that we were finally forced to ask, “Do you have any questions that aren’t about money?”

So she must have found something newsworthy about it, although she strangely never reveals what in her article.  

Could they be doing a three-part series? An even more chilling prospect: she was asking the questions for some other reason.

The real question is: what was the point of doing a snarky hit piece on an obscure writer who couldn’t get on Hardball with pictures of our current President alone in a room doing something inappropriate with a bat and an elephant?

I mean, if you’re too lazy to deliver any hit? For an answer we turned to someone not personally involved…  

dekkers copy“Especially funny was her portrait of flight school operator Rudi Dekkers as a victim, and Hopsicker as an evil man out to crush what the "Naples businessman,” chortled local political writer John Patten.

Calling the article “an interesting rip job,” he wrote, “Locals will long remember Dekkers' face getting plastered all over our television sets when it was revealed that he had taught Mohamed Atta how to fly right here in Venice. Venetians were horrified, but Dekkers, thrilled with all of the attention, turned his Warholian 15 minutes (that stretched out to an ungodly four or five days) into an ad for his flight school.”

“That image alone, that of Dekkers as victim, made me throw down the article in disgust.”

We wondered: Did she think quoting Rudi Dekkers was going to settle my hash?

"Rudi Dekkers… said Hopsicker's accusations have taken a toll on his business and caused former customers to stop associating with him.

"This S.O.B., he doesn't realize he destroys families and people," Dekkers said in a telephone interview Thursday. "I have seen nothing that's the truth. He fantasizes. He fantasizes stories, and names," reported the Herald Tribune.

"If I had the money, would I sue him? Into hell," added Dekkers, a Dutch immigrant who now charters airplanes from Naples. "I would sue him into hell."

Well now. I'd contribute $20: Should we take up a collection so poor Mr. Dekkers can have his day in court? What are the odds he'd make it to a deposition without experiencing the 'ol David Ferrie 'night before testifying heart attack?'

But on to more important questions. Like:

"Is the Sarasota Herald Tribune ever planning on telling their readers about the heroin trafficking?"

When the Trib's reporter said “we can find out you know,” we hope she was telling the truth. Because Americans, and most especially the families of the almost 3000 murder victims, are still waiting for answers to hundreds of conspicuously-unanswered questions.

So we have a few questions for the Sarasota Herald Tribune. If they don’t know the answers, we'd appreciate it if they'd adopt reporter Glenn's attitude: “We can find out, you know.”

Because if “we can find out you know” had been the Sarasota Herald Tribune’s mottoheroin in the stunned aftermath of the 9.11 attack—when it would have mattered—the nation could have been spared… a lot, not the least of which was the disgraceful spectacle of every American network with which Time Warner cross-promotes trotting out international criminal Rudi Dekkers as the expert on the hijackers' time in America.

If the Sarasota Herald Tribune had reported to the waiting nation the news—the real news—that DEA agents discovered 43 pounds of heroin on the Lear jet of flight school owner Wally Hilliard during the same month Atta and Marwan arrived to “fly” at his school… And that the plane had made 30 weekly trips for thirty weeks in a row down to Venezuela and back ferrying the same people…

Imagine how America’s sad and tragic recent history might have been changed. Here recall how only the fact that "communist" Lee Harvey Oswald inexplicably lived long enough to scream "I'm a patsy!" on camera which prevented the U.S. military from invading Cuba in retaliation.

If someone high in American government was trading heroin with Osama bin Laden at the time of the attack…would we still have invaded Iraq?

Youth wants to know

caption1Why doesn't the Sarasota Herald Tribune ask Katherine Harris about shilling for one of Rudi Dekkers and Wally Hilliard's failed ventures (Florida Air) while Florida Governor Jeb Bush was at the same time shilling for another Hilliard failed venture (Discover Air) in Orlando?

Are Republicans known for giving free public endorsements to failing enterprises? Or were these somehow special cases?

And why did the Herald Tribune run a story so laughably false that it would have caused even a Warren Commission staffer to blush with shame?

We refer to the Herald Tribune report “Fifth Pilot Trainee Vanishes: ‘Mohammed’ Slept on her Couch, Venice Woman Says” which exhibited a twisted pretzel logic that would make Steely Dan proud.

Why was a Sarasota Herald Tribune reporter stalking and intimidating Mohamed Atta's American girlfriend even after she told him she’d get in trouble with Jeb Bush's Florida Department of Law Enforcement if she said anything?  

Why didn’t Sarasota Herald Tribune reporters question the illegal ownership of flight schools, fixed base operations, and American air carriers by foreign (Dutch) nationals doing business with the terrorists?

From John Patten: “Our nation's most terrible moment provided quite a windfall for the flight school entrepreneur. Dekkers had significantly jacked up his prices for the 9/11 terrorists. It appears if you attended Huffman Aviation's flight school and didn't want to learn to land, it cost extra, and Dekkers collected that extra.”

Patten is absolutely correct. Demonstrably correct. We're happy to provide the Herald Tribune with citations. We’d like to know: What’s up with that?  

We want to hear The Sarasota Herald Tribune say “We can find out you know” about matters of greater significance than "local self-published conspiracy theorists."  

It seems only fair. We’ve been a good sport about their snidely derisive, condescending & attitude-filled celebration of ignorance.

James Garrison, RIP

In situations where addressing abundant evidence disproving the government’s official explanation proves inconvenient, which seem to occur with extraordinary frequency, "Conspiracy theorist” is the label used by authorities and their lap dogs in the major news media

Despite 40 years worth of shilling by the likes of Dan Rather (the only reporter present in Dealey Plaza when Kennedy was murdered who, drat the luck, didn’t see a thing) every poll shows an overwhelming majority of the American people believe the Warren Commission's conclusions were a sham, and that courageous New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison was right about the existence of a conspiracy to assassinate JFK.  

The percentage grows every year.

We hope that one day “Welcome to TerrorLand” helps the investigation of some courageous future prosecutor intent on discovering the truth about the Sept 11th attack.

We feel a little like Forrest Gump. That's all we have to say about that.

Daniel Hopsicker

Daniel Hopsicker is an investigative journalist and the author of two books on transnational crime, Welcome to Terrorland and Barry & the Boys.